Thursday, 9 November 2017

EP: Thunderblender - Last Minute Panic

Thunderblender - Last Minute Panic
Photo: Pepa Niebla

Info: Led by Irish tenor and bass saxophonist Sam Comerford, with Belgians Hendrik Lasure (piano) and Jens Bouttery (drums, bass synth), Thunderblender have been making a name for themselves in Europe in the last two years. This summer the trio blew away the jury at the Concours Tremplin Jazz d’Avignon, awarding Sam the prize for best soloist.

Founded in 2015, Thunderblender brings together three of the most exciting improvisers in Brussels today, all laureates of the Toots Thielemans Award. Drawing inspiration from composers such as Tim Berne and Henry Threadgill. Comerford’s long form compositions move between order and chaos. Heavy grooves and tender lyrical moments. As a bassless trio, the three members are free to improvise the arrangements on the fly, leading each other into unexpected places every time. That’s not to say there’s no low end, Bouttery’s subtle use of bass synth, Lasure’s left hand, and Comerford’s bass saxophone bring the music into uncharted territory.

Recorded in front of a live audience at renowned club Bravo, Last Minute Panic captures the trio at their most raw and adventurous, a snapshot of the vibrant Brussels scene today.

Due to the highly complex manner in which jazz music is constructed, and my own lack of technical knowledge when it comes to the genre, I will keep my review short. I have fallen in love more and more with jazz music over the past ten years, a late bloomer, so I know what I like. 

With Thunderblender's Last Minute Panic I'm fully able to appreciate the vast sprawl of opening track 'Bozza' and also the EP's title-track. 'Bozza' criss-crosses between 50's classic jazz, the mood and sound is very Chet Baker on its lower moments, but also there's a great deal of modernity. Like an instrumentally stripped-down version of the wild runs Toronto's BADBADNOTGOOD go on. Comerford's sax controls the tempo, from the quiet whisper to the exasperated gasp for one last breath. Meanwhile at the five-minute mark the trio really take off, percussion and keys racing against each other before drawing down to a slow stride once again.

Thunderblender - Bozza

'Kwakzalver' hits that chaos the band allude to in their bio, a storm of bossa nova drumming that can only be admired and the thinly sliced off-time interplay between piano and saxophone battling out against each other, it turns into The Dave Brubeck Quartet's 'Blue Rondo a la Turk' put through the meat-grinder with an invisible crazed conductor maniacally overseeing proceedings.

'Last Minute Panic' is the type of homage to old school jazz that would grab the attention of the Masters themselves if they were sitting around a table in a dark club with the three-piece performing in front of them. Despite the heavy tone the track manages to impart a sense of relaxation and smoothness, and there are more delicate moments to be found such as a the half-way point. Finally we come to 'Toetje' (meaning 'a little something after'), and it's a very sweet ending to the EP. Thunderblender opt for continuity and calm here, a reflective pause, the soft timbre of all three instruments resting very nicely on the soul, even managing to leave you with a small feeling of moroseness as the curtain draws down.  

Last Minute Panic is 100% the type of mood-driven jazz that I would reach for when looking to both zone out and find a bit if headspace. It subtly covers many styles at once and it is so easy to see why these three musicians have received both awards and accolades for their craft, I'm not sure they could have improved on any aspect of this collection of songs.  

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